Country Fire Authority Bushfire Risk Management

The Country Fire Authority Act 1958 authorises the CFA to conduct fuel management activities in the country area of Victoria.

CFA’s fuel management activities are undertaken on private land and public land that is not managed by DEECA (for example, roadsides and rail corridors), at the request of the landowner or land manager.

Additions to the report for this year include a description of the values-checking process CFA undertakes before any fuel management activities take place and more detail on the vegetation types in which bushfires were suppressed.

Mitigation and prevention

Fuel management

The CFA conducts fuel management activities at the request of the landowner or manager. It does not manage land and must work closely with landowners and managers such as local government, and road and rail authorities to conduct planned burning or non-burn fuel treatments. Table 4 outlines the treated area, and the number and location of all fuel management treatment activities led by the CFA during 2022–23, and the previous reporting year of 2021–22 for comparison.

In total, 3,406 hectares were treated across the state, through 183 activities in the 2022–23 year (note these figures include 3 cultural burns covering 49 hectares led by Traditional Owners which CFA supported, and 1 cross-tenure burn of 1.4 hectares led by the CFA). The largest areas treated were in the South West CFA region (1,909 hectares) and West CFA region (1,075 hectares). Many of the areas treated on behalf of land managers were long linear strips, such as road and rail corridors, with a small hectare footprint, but totalling 570 kilometres of vegetation treated to reduce fuel-driven bushfire risk.

The area treated and number of treatments for the current year were slightly lower than the last reported year of 2021–22, except for the roadside distance treated which was higher. The totals for 2021–22 were 3,619 hectares (213 more hectares than 2022–23) treated across the state, through 219 fuel treatments (36 more than 2022–23) with 494 kilometres of vegetation treated (76 less kilometres than 2022–23).

Table 4: CFA fuel treatment activities by treatment type in 2022–23, and previously reported in 2021–22

Fuel treatment activities 2022-23

MeasureHectareNumber of activitiesRoadside Kms
Total planned burn3,083.6123570
Cultural burns (TO led)48.73
Total fuel reduction 3023.2118
Includes Cross tenure (CFA led)*1.41
Includes Roadside and Rail Corridors)*2,669.485570
Ecological 11.72
Total non-burn322.860
Spraying174.56
Slashing/mowing92.533
Mulching 35.117
Grazing20.74
Total all works completed3406.4183570

*Note the 1 cross-tenure burn and the 85 roadside and rail corridor burns are included in the total fuel reduction figures.

Fuel treatment activities 2021-22

MeasureHectareNumber of activitiesRoadside Kms
Total planned burn3,220171494
Cultural burns (TO led)
Total fuel reduction
Includes cross-tenure (CFA led)*
Includes roadside and rail corridors*
Ecological
Total non-burn39147
Spraying
Slashing/mowing
Mulching
Grazing
Total all works completed 3,619219494

*Note the 1 cross-tenure burn and the 85 roadside and rail corridor burns are included in the total fuel reduction figures.

Planned burns reduce risk by providing critical access for firefighters to suppress bushfires, facilitating safe egress routes for communities, and protecting assets by reducing fuels next to residential areas and critical infrastructure. These treatments help deliver on joint bushfire management strategy approaches, including more effective fire suppression, reduced bushfire spread and severity, and reduced impacts of bushfires on people and property.

The CFA fuel management program is often driven by local communities and as a result, has positive flow on effects for communities in understanding their own bushfire risk and the role fire can play in reducing risks and maintaining ecosystems. However, due to the smaller size and linear characteristics of these planned burns, they are less represented in the calculations used to monitor fuel-driven bushfire risk due to modelling limitations.

All planned burns led by the CFA were incorporated into the fuel-driven bushfire risk calculations conducted by FFMVic, were included in the joint agency prioritisation for delivery and contributed towards approaches to treat risk as identified in the regional Bushfire Management Strategies.

The CFA’s fuel treatments for the year 2022–23 are presented and compared to the previously reported year (Table 5). Most of the fuel management completed in 2022–23 was through planned burning (90.5%), with non-burn fuel treatment accounting for 9.5% of the CFA’s program. Non-burn fuel treatments included various mechanical treatments, such as spraying, slashing and mulching. This compares to 2021–22 where similarly most treatment was delivered through planned burning (89%).

Table 5: CFA fuel treatment activities, by region 2022–23 and previously reported in 2021–22

CFA Region 2022-23 2021-22
Number of fuel treatment activitiesArea treated hectaresNumber of fuel treatment activitiesArea treated (Hectares)
North East

43

171

47

180

North West

27

186

14

62

South East

20

65

8

24

South West

52

1,909

77

1,914

West

41

1075

73

1439

Total

183

3406

219

3619

The total area treated in 2022–23 and 2021–22 was relatively similar, though a reduced number of treatments was delivered in 2022–23 (the average treatment area was larger). The 2022–23 window for delivery of planned burns was shorter than in previous years with some activities converted to a non-burn fuel treatment, such as a linear roadside. The sites converted to a non-burn fuel treatment will be revisited in the coming year to burn.

This year's reporting is broken down into further detail showing what treatment types were undertaken across a region (Table 6). Where a region did not undertake a certain treatment type, such as a particular type of non-burn or planned burn treatment the treatment type has not been included in the regional statistics. Non-burn fuel treatments can be broken down into 2 sub-categories of mechanical and biological treatments. Mechanical treatments include slashing/mowing, mulching, pruning and spraying whilst biological treatment refers to grazing.

Table 6: Detailed breakdown of regional treatments for 2022–23

CFA RegionFuel treatment typeHaNo.Km's
North EastTotal all works completed 1714327.2
Planned burn 911427.2
Fuel reduction 89.614**
Total cross tenure1.41**
Total roadside and rail corridor*7**27.2
Non-burn8029
Slashing/mowing5922
Grazing214
Mulching0.43
North WestTotal all works completed 1862771
Planned burn 1601871
Fuel reduction 14816
Total roadside and rail corridor*1471
Ecological 11.72
Non-burn269
Slashing/Mowing237
Mulching3.22
South EastTotal All Works Completed 65204.2
Planned burn63154.2
Fuel reduction6315
Total roadside and rail corridor*54.2
Non-burn1.75
Mulching1.75
South WestTotal All Works Completed1,90949307
Planned burn1,90949307
Traditional Owner cultural ban (CFA supported)493
Fuel reduction 1,86049
Total roadside and rail corridor*39307
Non-burn00
WestTotal All Works Completed 1,07541
Planned burn 86124161
Fuel reduction 86124
Total roadside and rail corridor*20161
Non-burn21417
Slashing/mowing10.24
Mulching307
Spraying 174 6

*Note that no hectare figure is reported against roadside and rail corridor treatments as these treatments are linear corridors better represented by kilometres

**Note that number of the total number of roadside and rail corridor treatments, and cross-tenure burns, is included in the number of fuel reduction treatments

In 2022–23, the CFA had an increase in the number of non-burn fuel treatment activities delivered. In some cases, this was due to areas intended for planned burns being converted to a non-burn fuel treatment due to unsuitable conditions to safely and effectively deliver a planned burn.

These areas were treated with non-burn fuel treatment to change the fuel structure and arrangement with the intention to return in the coming year and burn to remove the fuel. The change in structure can influence fire intensity.

The delivery of linear burns on roadsides and rail corridors was predominately implemented in the South West and West regions through the large grassland and grassy woodland corridors.

Due to their remnant nature, these grasslands are often of high conservation importance and are protected under State and Federal legislation. Managing appropriate fire regimes is important to maintain ecological health and function within these grasslands with burn planning and delivery undertaken in consultation with land managers and stakeholders.

Biodiversity and Aboriginal cultural and historical heritage checks

In 2022–23, 741 sites were checked by Biodiversity Advisors and the Cultural Heritage Advisor within the CFA for biodiversity, cultural heritage and historical heritage values (Table 7). The advisors work with regional teams, land managers and specialists to do values assessments. The values assessment process can be broken down into a few key steps:

  • All Year 1 and 2 JFMP fuel treatments were values checked during the 3-month JFMP build process to ensure all treatments had checks completed before the JFMP was endorsed. Burns were deferred to Year 3 of the JFMP if required to enable further values checking and permit processes to be undertaken.
  • CFA Biodiversity Advisors and the Cultural Heritage Advisor checked all sites in Years 1 and 2 of the JFMP initially through online databases. Where values were identified, and particularly for listed species, on-ground site visits were undertaken. This was often with the landowner or manager.
  • Where values were identified the CFA engaged with the landowner or manager about the value(s) and required mitigations to minimise impact or harm to a value. These mitigations are incorporated into the planning and delivery phases of a treatment.

Table 7: Biodiversity and heritage checks undertaken as a total, and per region, in 2022–23.

CFA RegionValue Category Total fuel treatmentsTotal CheckedValues Identified%
StateBiodiversity 741739480100%
Aboriginal cultural heritage 73944100%
Historical heritage 73814100%
North East RegionBiodiversity 163163114100%
Aboriginal cultural heritage 1634100%
Historical heritage 1630100%
North West Region Biodiversity 70684497%
Aboriginal cultural heritage 68497%
Historical heritage 681100%
South East Region Biodiversity 909066100%
Aboriginal cultural heritage 904100%
Historical heritage 901100%
South West RegionBiodiversity 237237143100%
Aboriginal cultural heritage 237 21100%
Historical heritage 2367100%
West Region Biodiversity 181181113100%
Aboriginal cultural heritage 18111100%
Historial heritage 1815100%

The difference between the total fuel treatments and total treatments checked differs as additional treatments were added to the JFMP as an amendment and assessments completed by the land manager. For due diligence, the CFA checks the land manager’s assessment. However, in the financial year 2022–23, 2 treatments were checked by the land manager only.

Biodiversity values were the most readily identified value as shown, however, for Aboriginal cultural heritage the number of values identified is only for known values and assets.

Many sites checked for cultural heritage contained known sensitivity, such as around water bodies, where the likelihood of a value being present is increased. In cases where sensitivity is identified the CFA Contingency Plan – for Discovery of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage is enacted. The contingency plan has an escalation process if a value is found.

Fire suppression

During the 2022–23 year, the CFA suppressed 1,949 fires, impacting 6,605 hectares with 1,794 (92%) of them suppressed with a fire size under 5 hectares (Table 8). The period from January to March 2023 had the highest number of fires. Suppression under 5 hectares is more difficult in the summer and autumn months due to increased temperatures and drier vegetation and fuel loads, as well as more fires needing to be managed with the available resources.

The 2022–23 season required CFA to respond to significantly fewer fires than in 2021–22, when CFA crews attended 2,875 fires impacting 18,221 hectares with 93% of fires kept to less than 5 hectares in area

Table 8: Total CFA fires suppressed and those suppressed with a fire size under 5ha over different months of the year.

Months of the yearFires attended (no.)Fires suppressed under 5 ha (no.)Fires suppressed under 5 ha (%)
Jul-Sep145145100%
Oct-Dec41139195%
Jan-Mar99589490%
Apr-Jun39836491%
Total 1,9491,79492%

Most of the vegetation fires attended by the CFA in 2022–23 were in grassland (70%) (Table 9).

There are multiple reasons crop fires start and may be difficult to suppress, including:

  • crop fires typically start from machinery leaving a trail of multiple ignition sources that can lead to rapid-fire acceleration,
  • crop fires are difficult to suppress due to the fuel load, height and continuity, which all act to increase flame length and fireline intensity,
  • the definition of a crop fire – whether or not it is harvested or unharvested,
  • the size of the fire may have been over-estimated if it had not been mapped using GPS or other means, and
  • many farms are not in close proximity to CFA resources, which may delay turnout times.

This year’s percentage is consistent with previous years at 55% for 2019–20, 47% for 2020–21 and 53% for 2021–22.

Table 9: Total CFA fires suppressed on public and private land in 2022–23.

Vegetation type Total incidents (no.)Total area burnt (ha)Suppressed under 5 ha (no.)Suppressed under 5 ha (%)
Crops1018996867%
Forest and Scrub 15618015297%
Grassland1,3604,8191,25592%
Unclassified33270731996%
Total 1,9496,6051,79492%

Updated